Remember that old public service announcement, “Reading is fundamental”? Never has a PSA nailed it so perfectly. Reading is fundamental. We need to be challenged. We need to be inspired. We need to be moved. We need to learn, and not just from tweets. Yes, I’m actually talking about books. Finding the perfect book is inspirational, informative and essential.
I reflect now from a world driven by 140-character tweets, but I have moved many more people through books. Many years ago, a friend from Ursinus College shared a book with me that he thought I would enjoy. It was A Season of Life by Jeffrey Marx, an inspirational story about the true meaning of manhood. It also had several lessons that were applicable to my business life. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and bought about a dozen copies to send to some friend and business colleagues as a Christmas gift. The feedback from the recipients was astounding. All of them were moved to send me a personal note of thanks and appreciation of what the book meant to them. Unbeknownst to me at the time, that was the beginning of my Annual Christmas Book. The list of recipients has grown over the past 10 years to now include more than 400 people, many of whom make recommendations to me all year long. Participants love it so much that if I am late in sending out the book, I get inquiries from folks concerned that they were dropped from the list because of some unknown infraction. (Side note: there are infractions for which I will drop someone from the list. They will know it.)
My goal every year is to find a book to share that will reinforce core values, touch the soul, make readers laugh — and cry — present some business lessons, and make my recipients happy to be alive. I have lost track of how many books I have started, only to put down as soon as I realize they are not “Christmas book-worthy.” (For the record, I do try to go back and finish them but only after the true mission has been accomplished.) Oh, one other criteria – it cannot be a best seller (at least prior to it making my list). Too bad, Bruce Springsteen! You missed your shot at being the Annual Christmas Book because you topped the New York Times bestseller list.
So, without further ado, I would like to share the current list with you. I’ve even added my 140 character summary of each one if you want to tweet about them. Hopefully, you will find the books to be as meaningful to you as they were to me.
Season of Life by Jeffrey Marx
Michael Marcon Tweets: Joe Ehrmann is one of my heroes. He teaches his players the keys to successful defense: penetrate, pursue, punish, love. I live by these!
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Michael Marcon Tweets: Brick walls are there for a reason – to see how badly you want something.
I’m Proud of You; My Friendship with Fred Rogers by Tim Madigan
Michael Marcon Tweets: Yes, Fred Rogers was as nice in person as he was on TV. Is there any better way to sign a letter than I’m Proud of You?
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Michael Marcon Tweets: Best business advice ever given by a dog named Enzo – The car goes where your eyes go.
Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger
Michael Marcon Tweets: Vin Scully. Ray Kinsella. Crash Davis. Chicago Cubs – It reminds us of what was once good, and could be again.
When the Game Stands Tall by Neil Hayes
Michael Marcon Tweets: If it was just a movie, no one would believe it. The power of teamwork, dedication, and practice.
A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt
Michael Marcon Tweets: My personal role model – principles are just nice thoughts until they are tested.
The Humans by Matt Haig
Michael Marcon Tweets: We look funny, smell funny, and have inferior intellect. Thankfully, we have love.
The Essential Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
Michael Marcon Tweets: The pure unadulterated joy and whimsy of being six. If I only would listen to my “Hobbes” more often.
So, as you can see, Oprah has nothing on me (except a few hundred million dollars)!
This year’s book is A Sense of Where You Are: A Profile of Bill Bradley at Princeton by John McPhee. I think we can all agree that if there was ever a year to wish we could return to a simpler time, this was it. Hopefully, this year’s book helped turn back the clocks, back to an era when basketball shorts were actually short, when teamwork and passing were the rule, not the exception, when the players did not “flex” for the camera every time they made a basket, and when student-athletes played sports as a relief from the grind of their academic load. Bill Bradley was my hero growing up in Chicago and New Jersey. This book shaped my high school and college life. But, for non-basketball fans, it is more than basketball. It is about the fundamental qualities that make us who we are; that hard work and dedication are eternal and fundamental values; and that teamwork trumps individualism every time.
“Remember: when you are not practicing, someone else, somewhere else, is practicing. He will beat you when you meet.” – Bill Bradley
Michael C. Marcon is the founder & CEO of Equity Risk Partners and former chairman of the Ursinus College board of trustees. He tweets from @mcm7464. Tweet him any of your questions about business, leadership or life.